How about some methodological notes? I haven’t thought much about it, but I find different people’s listening habits fascinating. Except mine, which I think are pretty run-of-the-mill. There are three major ways I listen to music.
(1) whenever I’m in my dorm room, I have a CD playing on my computer, no matter what I’m doing (unless what I’m doing involves its own soundtrack, like watching a movie or playing a computer game). Working, putzing around on the computer, reading, talking, whatever. This is my standard method of listening to music, and it’s also generally when I get the least out of it, meaning I usually don’t actually actively listen, and so I digest very little.
(2) if I go to the library or something to study, I always bring a Discman and headphones. Sometimes this works incredibly well and I’m able to study well and simultaneously digest what I’m listening to. Sometimes I get too distracted by the music and I end up just listening. Either way, I always take more away from the music this way than I do when I’m listening in my room. There’s something about the intimacy of headphone listening that just demands more attention.
(3) when I’m driving. This is pretty self-explanatory, and I think in general this is where I most actively listen to music. That’s pretty disturbing I guess. But I find that whenever I listen to a good CD in the car, I’m definitely able to listen closely and digest what I’m hearing.
Noticeably absent in that list is me actually just sitting down and doing nothing but listening to music. I wish I had the time to do that. For a while during my sophomore year in college I tried to sit down each night and listen to a CD on my headphones while doing nothing else. That didn’t last very long - I just couldn’t budget an hour for music and nothing else each night. It’s a shame. I guess I do actively listen to music and nothing else when I’m reviewing a CD - when I review a CD I like to have a very, very good grip on what I’m writing about. So I’ll listen to it over and over again, until I can identify each song by name having heard just a few seconds of it. That’s why I’m such a fucking slow reviewer… I could never write for a magazine, cranking out 20 reviews a month or whatever. That’s also why I’m so slow at reviewing promo CDs - since I’m not familiar with the music at all, it takes many many listens for me to get comfortable enough with it to write a good review. The only exceptions are whenever I have extremely strong feelings about the music - it’s always easier to write a review of an album if you absolutely love or hate it.